The State of Texas: July 31, 2015
DPS director grilled about Sandra Bland arrest and barbecue faces another challenge in Austin.
What else is there to say? George H.W. Bush is doin’ A-OK.
Who knew jumping out of planes was safer than getting out of bed? Thanks to all for your kind get-well messages. pic.twitter.com/T9FmhCqyme
— George Bush (@GeorgeHWBush) July 30, 2015
Essay of the Day
Doug Sahm was one of the quintessential members of a weirdo Texas counterculture tribe. The musician doesn’t get his due nearly enough, but there is a wonderful essay in the LA Review of Books that is part meditation, part personal journey and part exploration into “why Sahm moved to Northern California and why he left” (to go back to Texas).
Interrogation – Steve McCraw, Texas Department of Public Safety Director, was seriously raked through the coals yesterday, hit with questions that the Associated Press called “pointed” at a hearing on Sandra Bland’s arrest and death. McCraw “endured an hour-long interrogation from members of the Texas House Committee on County Affairs,” particularly from Representative Garnet Coleman, who asked direct questions like, “What will you do to improve or do something about the training of the troopers? Its clear to me, or at least to most people that the trooper was a little aggressive,” according to the Texas Tribune. “There was a reason [for the stop], if you look at it from a traffic violation standpoint,” the Associated Press reported McCraw said. But according to The New York Times, McCraw acknowledged that the trooper “violated department policy, behaved rudely and failed to de-escalate a confrontational situation that ended in Ms. Bland’s arrest.” Apart from the grilling, the meeting was meant to “discuss how to improve jail standards, especially while housing people with mental illnesses, and how to increase trust between law enforcement and the communities,” writes the Houston Chronicle. It was, in short, one of the signs of the apocalypse. Lion and lamb laid down together as even Tea Party firebrand Representative Jonathan Stickland criticized police action. “Liberties were stomped on,” he said.
Stopping Traffic – Federal authorities finally caught a border break. “U.S. Homeland Security investigators dismantled a South Texas ring that illegally smuggled thousands of immigrants across the border from Mexico and on to other parts of the state,” according to the Associated Press. “The two-year investigation led to the arrests of more than 400 people, some 60 indictments and $187,000 seized, according to authorities. The ring extended from western border cities to San Antonio and Dallas. Harry Jimenez, a deputy special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, said that investigators were examining possible links with Mexican cartels but that none have surfaced yet.” In related news, McAllen mayor Jim Darling is proposing an interesting way of turning limónes into limonada. Darling suggested that “McAllen should capitalize on the national coverage it has received from the local response to the surge of immigrants that began last summer by branding the city in a positive light,” reports the Brownsville Herald. “City staff told the commissioners that outsiders already had formed perceptions of McAllen — often negative — but that the city could attempt to control the narrative in an effort to increase tourism. Riffing on that, District 3 Commissioner Hilda Salinas said the thousands of immigrants who continue to visit Sacred Heart Catholic Church [a migrant shelter] could be labeled as hospitality.”
The Smoke of War – The smell of barbecue is never unwelcome for a Texan, right? Maybe not. “A group of 15 Austin residents have filed a lawsuit against Terry Black’s Barbecue for negligence and nuisance stemming from the smoke the barbecue restaurant emits to cook its meats,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “The suit comes after more than a year of back-and-forth conversations between the neighbors and the restaurant’s management about how to resolve the issue of smoke drifting into the neighbors’ yards and homes.” The plaintiffs “allege that the smoke … drifts into the neighbors’ properties and into their homes, ‘adversely affecting Plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property.’” Still, this is part of an ongoing fight in a city that is very, very proud of its barbecue (and prodigal son, Aaron Franklin). Back in April, the city council was seriously considering an ordinance that would increase regulations on barbecue joints’s smoke output (our barbecue editor had some thoughts on that). That fire was put out less than a month later when “the City Council Committee on Economic Development voted unanimously Monday against supporting the ordinance.”